This post was originally published on December 15, 2014.
I was recently talking to a girl who had five days of sobriety and she was worried about what her friends would think of her if she didn’t drink anymore. I said, “In my experience, they will either be very supportive, not care, or stop hanging out with you.”
I wanted to say, “Everything is going to change when you quit drinking. Your friends, the places you go, the things you like to do, everything.” But that’s scary to think about. I didn’t want to scare her. Now that early sobriety is behind me, I think it’s funny how at the end of our drinking, we are so miserable and desperate and yet we’re afraid of our lives changing. “I want to kill myself because my life is so shitty, but I also don’t want anything in my life to change!” Logic would dictate that when your life becomes an unmanageable nightmare, you’d want everything to change. But I remember being this girl, the girl with five days of sobriety, and wanting the same type of life but without the alcohol.
When I first quit drinking, my friends were pretty cool about it. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal because I wasn’t the type that had a ton of wreckage and I was lucky that my friends weren’t like, “What? You’re not drinking! How boring!” They were very nice about it, but I do remember in my first year of sobriety when my friends didn’t invite me to a New Year’s Eve party and I thought my world was caving in. I asked a friend why I wasn’t invited and she said it was because she didn’t think I’d want to go since I was sober. In my head I was like, “Fuck you.” But looking back, maybe she was just trying to be nice and “save” me from being at a party without the luxury of drinking. Or maybe she didn’t want to get wasted in front of me. Who knows.
If your life is shit because of your drinking, chances are the people you hang out with are big drinkers as well. Alcoholics don’t really drink with normal people; they drink with other alcoholics. There’s nothing more comforting to an alcoholic than having a friend that drinks more than they do. “Thank God Sally was so drunk she gave the cabbie a hand job for a free ride home, now I don’t feel so bad about getting yelled at by my neighbor for peeing on her lawn.” Or “I might drink a lot, but I’m not as bad as Brian! He has two DUI’s and liver disease.”
The friends that I lost immediately were more in the category of “friends of friends,” drinking buddies who were a part of a crowd that I used to be in. They naturally faded away when I stopped going out as much. One of the very first people to go was the dirtbag I had been dating for a while, the guy who inspired me to reach an emotional bottom that led me to sobriety. As much as I hated him back them, I now think of him as some sort of twisted, sad gift. I just remember hanging out with him shortly after I quit drinking, when he got drunk and I was full of awareness. I couldn’t believe I had spent a year of my life pining over this dude—he was just not a good person. I won’t get into the details but thanks to sobriety, telling him to fuck off (with love, um sort of) was pretty easy.
The girl with five days and I kept talking. She said when she’s around sober people at a bar, she wants them to go away. She won’t even talk to them; she thinks they’re weird. As a result of this perception, she said she’s worried that her friends won’t want to be around her if she quits.
It’s possible. Like I said before, they’ll either be cool with it or they won’t. When you stop doing what your friends are doing, you find out who your real friends are. If all you have in common is drinking, the friendship will end. But if there is a deeper connection there, a sincere and caring relationship, the friendship might change a little, but it won’t end. I’m still really, really good friends with a girl who I used to party with. She got drunk with me on the last night of my drinking and I just hung out with her the other night and we went dancing ’til 2am! I don’t see her as much, and she still parties a lot, but I still consider her one of my best friends. We’ll go on hikes, go to the movies, or sometimes just hang out at her place. Does she invite me out every time she goes to a bar or a party? No, but it’s okay. I don’t care. I love her! She’s a great person!
My friends today are a mix of sober people, normal people who drink a rational amount, heavy drinkers and raging alcoholics. Who doesn’t love variety? I have different expectations for each type of these people, and not one “type” I consider better than another. We’re all on this planet doing what we need to do. If I call one of my drunk friends and they’re drunk, I’m like, “As you should be!” But I know when I’m in trouble, and I’m feeling crazy and horrible and scared, I have to call sober people who can talk me off the ledge because I know they’ve stood in the same exact spot and know what to do.
I hope that girl with five days of sobriety gets thousands of days of sobriety. I also hope she finds friends who won’t think she’s weird or boring for being sober.